Giro d’Italia: stage 20 – Win for Caruso

Damiano Caruso secured his first Grand Tour win on Stage 20 of the Giro and secured his second place standing on the GC while Egan Bernal burnt off his rivals for the Pink jersey thanks to his teammate Martinez

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Giro d’Italia: stage 20 – Win for Caruso

Damiano Caruso was delighted to win his first Grand Tour stage

The 164km stage started in Verbania, the most mountainous stage of the race, and despite 4,200m of climbing, there were plenty wanting to be in the breakaway. Harm Vanhoucke was the first to go solo off the front; TT man Mathias Brändle was another to try but alas, he too was brought back. A break finally stuck when seven riders escaped up the road; De Bondt and Vervaeke (AFC), Pellaud (ANS), Visconti (BFC), Albanese (EOK), Van Der Hoorn (IWG), Mattia Jorgensen (MOV). The seven was soon ten as Nico Denz (DSM) and Felix Großschartner (BOH) joined the break which soon had a lead of over four minutes but soon Deceuninck-Quick Step took to the front of the peloton and raised the tempo.

The break was soon splitting as Louis Vervaeke (AFC) attacked, taking Pellaud and Großschartner with him before Simon Pellaud had a mechanical problem. The leaders group was soon just a duo as Vervaeke and Großshcartner gapped others from the breakaway as BikeExchange also joined Quickstep on the front of the peloton. Visconti (BCF) and Albanese (EOK) rejoined Vervaeke (AFC) and Großschartner (BOH) to make four out front but their time in the lead was doomed as the peloton was bringing the gap down quickly.

Team DSM, on behalf of Romain Bardet, took over at the front of the peloton on the long long ascent and then on the descent, soon gapped the peloton and were closing in on the breakaway. Bilbao and Caruso (TBV) could see an opportunity and bridged to the DSM riders and it was the domestiques for Bardet and Curuso who went full gas to pace their leaders and open up a gap to the GC riders of 40 seconds or so.

Martínez forces the pace and when Hugh Carthy had to let the wheel go, Vlasov and Almeida had to quickly close the gap to Yates but he too was soon going backwards and after Almeida was dropped, it was just Bernal and Martínez 

With 6km to go on the Alpe Motta ascent to the finish, Caruso gave Bilbao a pat on the back to thank him for his work and was set on his way to fight for the stage win with only Romain Bardet (Team DSM) left with him. The gap of 40 seconds began to fall on the final few kilometres to the finish after impressive riding set by the team of the Pink Jersey Egan Bernal.

Like the day before with Yates, the gap between the race leader and the Pink jersey was never very much but Caruso proved too strong for his rivals and after riding Bardet off his wheel, took the stage win whilst reducing the gap to the Maglia Rosa by 24 seconds.

Better still though was the battle behind. Everyone was expecting Bernal to be attacked but he had teammates Castroviejo and Martínez and the pace they set saw Bernal’s rivals get spat out the back of the GC group one by one before it was only Martínez and Bernal in the Pink jersey group with Almeida the last to be popped. The Pink jersey then went after Caruso, finishing second on the stage and extending his lead on everyone but Caruso.

Damiano Caruso was delighted to win his first Grand Tour stage: “I knew that today, for me, it would be very important to confirm the podium and try to hang on to 2nd place, but what happened was a stupendous stage. My companions and I rode in great fashion, we made the most of it, and in the final, it was magical. The move was not planned. On the descent from San Bernardino, we saw that Team DSM was increasing the pace, and I and Pello Bilbao decided to follow them because we thought getting ahead could be a good strategy. In the end, it turned out to be the winning move. Before Pello was dropped, I thanked him because he had done a fabulous job, and it was especially satisfying to be able to finish it off with the win.”

Pello Bilbao leads Michael Storer, Bardet, Caruso and one other after the descent off the penultimate climb

“I thought about a thousand things in the last metres before the finish line, all my sacrifices, my training, and all the work done by my teammates. We rode in an exemplary way today. Pello Bilbao in particular did an incredible job and he played a fundamental role in this victory. Today I realised a dream. I think I’m the happiest man in the world! I also thought that we’re doing this with just five riders left. Who knows what we could do with the whole team. We did a classy ride today. 70% of this win is for Pello. I never won as a ‘champion,’ but today, yes, I can say I had my day like a champ.”

Egan Bernal: “I’m satisfied with the result. I think we managed well the situation. Finally we have two minutes advantage for tomorrow’s time trial so I think we are in a good position. It’s not the best to have the second in GC in front of you with almost one minute in front of you, but finally I still had 3 teammates, so I tried to use them and then, you know?, just arrive as fresh as possible for the last climb, and then for tomorrow. So I think we did well, managed well the situation, but of course it was difficult to manage the situation. I think Dani.. well, we knew he was a great rider, a lot of people knew it, but now he has proved it to everyone. He’s a rider who is very good over three weeks, he rides well, climbs well, and it’s nice to have two Colombians fighting for this jersey and the race lead in the same team, so this jersey is for Dani and for Colombia.”

Simon Yates: “We tried to do something again, the boys did a fantastic job again, as always. The plan was to try something on the second to last climb, but we arrived there and I didn’t have the legs, a bit of fatigue from yesterday maybe, a bit of fatigue from three weeks all coming together. But as always, I did the best as I could and I’m happy with what I did and we finish off with the TT tomorrow. We’re staying focused, it’s only one more day and then we can celebrate a nice podium in Milan.”

Romain Bardet: “I think today we can all be proud with the way we rode,” said Bardet after the finish. “Everyone committed 100 percent to the plan we made, and we gave it our best to the line. I’m really pleased by the dedication from everyone in the team.”

João Almeida: “Today was really hard, with some very tough gradients especially on the last climb, but I’m happy with my result and with being there again with the best guys. I did everything that I could and although I came outside the podium, I am satisfied with what I achieved on this stage. I can’t believe three weeks have passed and on Sunday the race will come to an end. I don’t know what’s possible to do in terms of general classification, but I will give my best in the time trial and try to finish the race on a high note”, said João after his display of bravery and determination on Alpe Motta.

Aleksandr Vlasov: “I just gave my best today, pushing as hard as I could. In the final I just missed a bit to stay with Bernal. I was dropped from the pink jersey group but continued on my rhythm to the top trying to finish as high as possible. Well, it was a hard day and once again I had great support from my team. Now I hope to recover in the best possible way to show my maximum in the time trial tomorrow”, – said Aleksandr Vlasov.

Taco van der Hoorn (breakaway): “We wanted to be in the breakaway today. Of course, this stage was tailored for climbers, and it’s far from my specialty. But in the end that doesn’t matter because the peloton didn’t leave us a significant margin of maneuver. But once again, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux was on the attack, up front. I had a lot of fun today, seeing so much tifosi along the roads encourages us to hope for a possible return to normal in the near future. This is the fourth time that I spent the day at the front, we can say that it is a successful first Grand Tour. There is one day of suffering left with tomorrow’s time trial, and then it will be definitely done!”

Tomorrow, the riders will close this 104th Giro d’Italia with an individual time trial of 29.4 kilometers of flat, in the metropolitan city of Milan, between Senago and Piazza del Duomo.


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